Kirkus Star


Email this review


That the conduct of the post-WW II Nuremberg trials and the court's final judgments were shaped by political bargaining, a subject widely discussed at the time, is reexamined here on the basis of such documents as the courtroom notes of senior American judge Francis Biddle. The Tribunal, writes Smith, was also colored by national judicial prejudices: the 1945 London Charter, which laid the legal basis for the trials, reflected an Anglo-American preference for ""conspiracy law,"" overriding the Soviet wish to stress broader circumstances and motives. And though Secretary of War Stimson succeeded in softening Henry Morgenthau's push for a stringent prosecution of the Nazis, the American position still remained less lenient than that of Britain, which was averse to classifying entire organizations, such as the SS, as criminal. Smith also outlines the compromises behind the judgments. Albert Speer, who had funneled slave laborers from Nazi-held territory into Germany, touched ""the rising cold war mentality"" of Alternate American Tribunal Member Robert Jackson, and escaped the gallows. Nazi Finance Minister Hjalmar Schacht was defended by the British as a banker and by the French as an aging man; the British also went easy on Admiral Karl Doenitz, partly because, according to Smith, they feared exposure of theft own submarine practices. The Western Allies reduced the sentence of Hitler's foreign minister, Otto von Neurath, after he had been convicted to satisfy Soviet tribunal delegate Nikitschenko, and the British managed to save Gustav Krupp from indictment altogether. Smith, however, is not protesting justice undone; he is showing the arbitrariness of the trials, condemning the notion of ""victors' revenge,"" and suggesting that no proper trial could occur without Hitler and Himmler in any case. The considerable impact of the book is found, not so much in its familiar challenge to the existence of the Tribunal, but in its probing of the jurors' in camera negotiations and predispositions.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1976
Publisher: Basic Books